21 December 2015

Make a fancy cake for the holidays! (post #1)

That's right, I didn't say Christmas.  I do not find the acknowledgment of other world religions oppressive, I think we all deserve to eat cake, and I think it's particularly appropriate when it's cold outside and you're packing on a little extra layer of warmth.  Get over it. 

This cake is resplendent and actually not difficult to execute.  I'll give you a simpler one next week. 



Pistachio and Almond Cake with Orange Salad

I adapted this Italian-inspired gem from Food and Wine, swapping precious ingredients for ordinary ones and simplifying the process slightly. 

For the pistachio and almond cake:
1 1/3 cups unsalted shelled pistachio nuts
1 1/3 cups blanched whole almonds
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
3 lemons
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the orange salad:
5 oranges, of mixed variety if you wish
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Unsalted shelled pistachio nuts, optional

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 300ºF. Butter a 4-by-8-inch loaf pan. Then, using a sifter or a fine-mesh strainer, dust it with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a food processor, combine the pistachios and almonds and pulse until finely ground. Set aside.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Grate the zest from the lemons directly into the bowl. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Mix in the vanilla just until incorporated. On low speed, gradually add the nuts and mix just until incorporated. Then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stir in the flour and salt and mix just until incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, run a pairing knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake sides, invert the cake onto a plate, and lift off the pan. At this point, the cake can be served warm or allowed to cool completely before being sliced and reheated.

To make the orange salad, cut a slice off the top and bottom of 1 orange, stand the orange upright, and cut downward to remove the rind and pith in thick strips. Cut the orange crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices, capturing any juice. Repeat with all of the remaining oranges. Set the orange slices aside until needed.

Gently heat the marmalade in a pot over low heat for about 3 minutes, or until syrupy. Add any captured orange juice along with lemon juice to the marmalade. Remove the pot from the heat and add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to thin the marmalade to the consistency of a vinaigrette. Let cool.

To serve, allow cake to cool at least thirty minutes. Cut into slices and place on individual plates.
Place 4 or 5 orange slices on each plate and drizzle generously with the marmalade syrup. Place the warm pieces of cake next to the orange slices and top with a dollop of yogurt and a few pistachios. Or just put everything on the table and let people help themselves.